Almaty | US astronaut Kathleen Rubins and Russian cosmonauts Sergei Ryzhikov and Sergei Kud-Svertchkov successfully took off for the International Space Station (ISS) on Wednesday on board a Russian Soyuz rocket.
The two Roskosmos cosmonauts and the NASA astronaut took off as agreed at 5:45 GMT from the Russian Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, according to images from the two space agencies. A few minutes after takeoff, Roskosmos posted on Twitter that the spacecraft “has successfully placed itself in orbit.”
The three scientists will break a new record, that of the shortest flight to the orbital station which they will reach in just three hours, against six hours usually. Their docking at the station is scheduled for 8:52 GMT.
They will join on board the ISS, a rare example of still functional cooperation between Russians and Westerners, the current occupants Chris Cassidy (Nasa), Anatoli Ivanichine and Ivan Vagner (Roskosmos) whose return to Earth is scheduled for October 22.
This flight of a Soyuz capsule takes place between two launches to the ISS of the American rocket SpaceX, which once again allows the United States to send men into space.
Until Robert Behnken and Doug Hurley’s flight on May 30 from Kennedy Space Center (Florida), Russia and its Soyuz rockets were the only way to send men to the international station. The duo returned to Earth on August 2.
SpaceX’s next flight to the ISS will take place next month: it will take three Americans and a Japanese to the station.
The emergence of SpaceX and Boeing, private players who have signed a partnership with NASA, is fueling discussions on a return to the “space race” between different countries.
But the three scientists who left on Wednesday focused instead on the ability of space travel to unite rival nations for a common cause.
“I certainly feel very lucky to be on the station,” said Kathleen Rubins, avoiding during the pre-launch press conference to mention SpaceX.
This launch had a special resonance for Kathleen Rubins, whose second mission in space and who is celebrating her 42 years on Wednesday.